NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

November 15, 2012

Amesbury holds public session on 'Stretch Code'

By Mac Cerullo Staff Writer
Newburyport Daily News

---- — AMESBURY — In the coming weeks, the Amesbury City Council will investigate whether to adopt the state’s “Stretch Code” as a means of making Amesbury a more energy-efficient community.

If adopted, the Stretch Code would tighten building requirements for both residential and commercial projects with the goal of bring down the community’s energy costs. Councilors Christian Scorzoni, Bob Lavoie and Council President Anne Ferguson are the bill’s sponsors.

Adopting the Stretch Code is also one of five requirements for Amesbury to earn Green Community designation from the state, which would make the city eligible to compete for up to $10 million in grants for green-energy programs.

Since its creation in 2009, one of the biggest arguments against adopting the Stretch Code has been that it demands more expensive materials to meet the efficiency goals, ultimately making it more expensive to build in town. The code applies to all new construction along with major residential renovations or additions.

The Stretch Code was intended as a way for communities to emphasize stronger energy performance in buildings, and proponents argue that the long-term energy savings over the life of the building more than recoup the additional upfront building costs.

So far 122 Massachusetts communities have adopted the Stretch Code, including nearby Newburyport. During the 2010 debate in Newburyport over the measure, it was estimated that the code requirements could add $10,000 to the cost of building a three-bedroom home.

“I think for a little effort I think there’s a lot of value for the community to adopt this,” Scorzoni said. “I recognize that it’s complicated and a lot of people will have questions about this, so what I ask the council is that we all come into a public information session on this.”

The public session will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 7 p.m. in the City Hall Auditorium and will be run by a panel of experts, including representatives from the state Department of Energy Resources and some home builders who can answer questions about the code, what it will mean for Amesbury, the costs and benefits and who would be exempt from the new requirements.

The measure will also be discussed at future Ordinance Committee, Finance Committee and energy task force meetings before it is ultimately voted on by the City Council.

If Amesbury were to ultimately adopt the Stretch Code, it would be one step closer to earning Green Community recognition from the state.

The five criteria that Amesbury must meet in order to receive Green Community designation are: provide zoning for renewable energy generating, R&D or manufacturing facilities; adopt an expedited application and permit process for those facilities; develop a plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent within five years; purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles; and adopt the state’s Stretch Code.

Amesbury met the first requirement in April after the City Council voted to approve setting up a solar overlay district that will control where solar projects are located and how they may be developed, and Scorzoni said the second requirement to expedite permitting has nearly been met too.